RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump marks his 100th day in office this coming Saturday. And ahead of that, we will be examining the administration's progress on a whole host of issues, starting today with the economy.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The president focused his campaign on an America-first economy, as he put it, that would spend more at home, less abroad. He said there'd be quick, early action on a tax overhaul. Here he is on February 9 saying a phenomenal tax plan is imminent.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're way ahead of schedule, I believe. And we're going to be announcing something, I would say over the next two or three weeks, that will be phenomenal in terms of tax.
MARTIN: Three weeks came and went, then three more and another three. A tax plan is now promised to come this week. Our colleague David Greene spoke with Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation. And they talked about the lack of early results on economic policy.
STEPHEN MOORE: I happen to think that the delay on the tax cut and the jitteriness of investors and business owners about whether this is going to happen at all this year is actually hurting the economy and hurting the stock market right now. So I think they need to act with much more urgency. And I don't have a good answer for why that hasn't happened.
DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Who needs to be more urgent? Should the president be realizing that this could be affecting markets and Wall Street and the economy and be pushing harder on Congress?
MOORE: I think both. I think both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue have to get going on this, especially given the fact that the Republicans struck out, at least until now, on health care reform.
President Trump needs a victory. He needs a legislative victory. I think he's done a lot on the regulatory front. But in terms of getting anything through Congress, so far it's been virtually a zero.
GREENE: Do you think that President Trump saw the dynamic in the Republican Party that caused the Republican health care plan to fail, and he is worried about not getting a victory and actually having yet another defeat?
MOORE: I think that's all the more reason that he has to put forward something that's very achievable. Larry Kudlow and I and Art Laffer put out a piece in The New York Times recently where we said, look, get a victory. Do the things where - there's a consensus on. Cut the business taxes to bring a lot of jobs back to the United States, and maybe woo some Democrats with infrastructure spending. But Donald Trump needs an economic victory. And this would be the way to do it, in my opinion.
GREENE: So has this been a failed first hundred days on the economic front?
MOORE: No, I don't think so. I would give Donald Trump a B for his first hundred days because a lot of the executive orders that he's put in place have been very positive, especially on regulation. And I also think just replacing a lot of the Obama personnel with very pro-business people in the administration has lifted the animal spirits of the economy.
GREENE: Well, let me ask you about another economic argument that President Trump has made. He has proposed in his budget cutting a significant amount of foreign aid. And his essential message is, you know, better to spend money on problems at home, on real solutions at home, than on lots of development aid programs abroad. Are you still with him on that?
MOORE: A hundred percent, a hundred percent - I mean, foreign aid has been about the biggest waste of money in the federal budget for the last 50 years. There's zero evidence that any of these foreign aid programs have had any effect on development, whether it's in the Middle East or Africa or South America. And there's just zero evidence that any of that development aid has had any effect on raising the living standards of these...
GREENE: Zero evidence - I mean, there are a lot of people, I think, who worked for USAID who would...
GREENE: ...Counter that and say...
MOORE: ...Well, of course...
GREENE: ...There's plenty of evidence...
MOORE: ...(Laughter) Of course the people...
GREENE: ...That the programs have worked so...
MOORE: ...At AID think that it's worked. But I think we make economic development way too complicated. If you move towards free markets, if you move towards a free enterprise system, remove government barriers, places will grow.
GREENE: Well, let me ask you just now that the president's been in for a hundred days - I mean, he has proposed these cuts to foreign aid programs. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said that the cuts that Donald Trump is talking about are essentially dead on arrival in Congress. Is that a sign that there's going to have to be a compromise?
MOORE: Well, I'm shocked, just shocked, to hear that the special interest groups in Washington and members of Congress don't want to cut the budget (laughter). I mean, that's been the case for 50 years. And it's a reason why we're running trillion-dollar-a-year deficits.
GREENE: Do the first hundred days matter?
MOORE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, they matter a lot. I mean, if you look at great presidents, whether it's Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, those presidents scored big victories in the first 100 days. And so there is a window of opportunity for any president. And what I've found is it slams shut pretty quickly (laughter). And so you don't want to squander that first hundred days. I think there were some opportunities that clearly were squandered.
When we look back at this first hundred days two years from now and four years from now, I think what's going to matter most by far to voters is, did he improve the economy? Did he put America back to work? And if this economy is humming at a faster pace, Donald Trump will be re-elected.
MARTIN: That's the voice of Stephen Moore. He's with The Heritage Foundation. And he advises Republicans on economic policy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.